A judge affirmed more than $487 million in penalties and damages against Cameron-Ehlen Group, operating as Precision Lens, and its owner Paul Ehlen after a jury found they filed tens of thousands of false claims to Medicare and violated the Anti-Kickback Statute.
The ruling of Judge Wilhelmina Wright of the District of Minnesota followed a February guilty verdict that found the defendants liable for paying kickbacks to ophthalmic surgeons to influence their use of Precision Lens products in Medicare-reimbursed cataract surgeries, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Monday in a press release.
The illicit inducements, per the DOJ, included private jet flights to destinations including Broadway shows in New York, the College Football National Championship Game in Miami, and the Masters golf tournament in Georgia. The defendants maintained a secret fund to finance the scheme, according to the DOJ.
The case was initially brought by whistleblower Kipp Fesenmaier under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act (FCA). He will receive an undisclosed percentage of the judgment amount.
The misconduct led to the submission of 64,575 false claims to Medicare, causing nearly $44 million in damages, the jury found. Under the FCA, penalties can total a minimum of $5,000 per false claim and three times the amount of damages sustained by the government. Consequently, the judgment included about $358 million in statutory penalties and approximately $131 million in trebled damages, totaling nearly $490 million.
The final judgment total accounted for nearly $2.5 million from a related settlement the DOJ reached with Sightpath Medical in 2017.
Precision Lens did not respond to a request for comment.